“On the first day of Solstice the peasants gave to me!” Murderous sang loudly, and badly, as he skipped through the temple throwing holly berries, pine branches, and burning torches left and right. “A man in a fire roasting!”
Mangler and Morbid watched the youngest of the Order decorating. “Do you think he cares he’s making up the words?”
“On the second day of Solstice the peasants gave to me: two severed heads and a man in a fire roasting!”
Morbid snorted. “No.” She glanced at Mangler. “For that matter though, there’s real words? He’s been singing this ditty for a hundred years and you just now tell me there’re real words?”
Mangler nodded, but before he could speak, a mechanical rasp from behind them said, “It’s a long list of gifts from one’s true love that mostly involves people and birds.” They glanced over their shoulders to see Deathly watching Murderous leaping gleefully. “Frankly I prefer Murderous’ version. It’s more gruesome, but it’s more colorful. One gets tired of listing different types of fowl.”
“Calling birds aren’t considered fowl,” Mangler said.
Deathly tipped his beak down. “Believe me when I say that it does not make the song any more enjoyable."
Mangler smiled. “He does have more variation between versus.”
Morbid eyed them both curiously. “What happens to the birds in the original? Are they eaten, sacrificed, split open?”
Deathly and Mangler paused, then burst out laughing at the same time. Morbid punched Mangler in the shoulder. He winced, but didn’t lose the smile.
“They’re just gifts,” Mangler said. “Gestures of affection I suppose between true loves.”
Morbid raised an eyebrow. “I can think of better ones.”
“That’s what I say,” Deathly remarked, his head following Murderous. Skulls and mistletoe had been added to his spray, tossing it all hither thither in his own demented way of decorating. His enthusiasm was somehow endearing. Even if they all hated him the rest of the year, somehow they couldn’t find fault with his childlike joy around Solstice.
“Five human hearts! Four birds of prey, three undertakers, two severed heads, and a man in a fire roasting!”
Morbid caught Mangler’s collar. “Better ones like smiles.”
Mangler’s smile faded. “That wasn’t supposed to be a gesture of affection.”
She shrugged. “Make it one.”
She draped her arms over his shoulders, Deathly moving away conspicuously. “It’s Solstice. That’s when the mortals get drunk and celebrate the return of the Kind-God. Who says the gods can’t do it either?”
The corner of Mangler’s mouth lifted. “We’re not gods.”
“Even better,” Morbid said.
Murderous broke into the eighth verse and flung an armful of decorations at them. “On the eighth day of Solstice the peasants gave to me!”
A garland of mistletoe landed on the pair of them. Mangler glanced at it.
“I love when he decorates with poisonous plants,” Morbid said.
Mangler nodded, looking her face over. “It has another meaning, too. Tradition I suppose.”
“Something that goes with the original lyrics of Murderous’ song?”
“If two people find themselves beneath mistletoe, they’re expected to kiss. For luck. Or something.”
Morbid laughed. “Was that a request, oh great god of chaos?”
“Depends on the answer.”
Morbid laughed again, drawing a smile from Mangler, then she leaned in and kissed him.